… that is, making a top 10 list of favorite hymns.
Jesus, The Name High Over All – Lyrics – Charles Wesley,
tune – ? ACK! My hymnals are already packed and do you know that I can’t find the tune that I use anywhere on the World Wide InterWeb*? PHIL, it’s in Hymns II – can you look it up for me?!?!
When my friend Bobbi was dying of cancer, leaving behind a husband and sweet 2 year old girl, this was one of the hymns that anchored her family – at the last moments of her life, Fred (her husband and partner in every way) crawled into bed with her, whispered this final verse into her ear – and she was gone. What mercy! We sang this hymn at our wedding (along with 12 others. It was a bit of a marathon – but a fun one!). I’ve only ever run across it in Hymns II – the InterVarsity Hymnal – which is why I can’t find the tune. Hmm. I’ll keep looking.
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling – lyrics – Charles Wesley, tune – Hyfrydol, Pritchard [is there any other? :)]
Of course Hyfrydol would make the list. The trick was in choosing which set of lyrics. I had to go with this one because of the final verse:
Finish then thy new creation, pure and spotless let us be,
Let us see thy great salvation perfectly restored in thee.
Changed from glory into glory, ’til in heaven we take our place,
‘Til we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise.
[and you wondered where the blog got its name… ]
Spiritual transformation has always been one of the ‘big ideas’ of following Jesus that has captured my attention, probably because of how hyper-aware I am of all the areas in my life that need CHANGE. I cling to Paul’s promise in II Corinthians 3 that, by the very virtue of walking with Christ, I am indeed BEING transformed. What hope!! We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being changed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory.. now that’s what I’m talking about. And Love Divine sums it up so perfectly in that final verse, I can hardly stand it. There’s no better way to sing this one, in my opinion, than on a screaming organ as bright and loud as it can go, at a leading tempo, not a dragging one – in a sanctuary with a wide enough reverb so that the worshipping community can be heard in all its glory. Bring it on!
At The Lamb’s High Feast We Sing – you can see why I love this one here.
The Church’s One Foundation – Oh man. I had to include this one because of the verse that is left OUT of most hymnals. The Episcopal Hymnal – 1982 – which is notorious for leaving out any verses that have much of anything to do with personal accountability – actually includes this verse, and it makes me cry when I think that the broken and battered Episcopal Church is the one that actually sings the verse of hope and victory with schism on the horizon.
Yet with a scornful wonder men see her sore oppressed,
By schism rent asunder, by heresies distressed,
Yet saints their watch are keeping, their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.
Too much to bear – such language is too wonderful for me to attain…
Fairest Lord Jesus – in my life as a Lutheran this hymn was referred to as ‘Beautiful Savior’. It’s nostalgic, I know, and it talks about meadows and trees and stuff, which isn’t usually my kind of hymn language. But this hymn is a master class in text writing – the way it moves to the final verse blows my mind.
The first verse introduces Jesus, the Lord, who is lovely. The second and third [and fourth, if you’re one of *those* churches 🙂 ], compare his loveliness to the fairest and most beautiful things of the earth – and clearly state that none of them can compare with him. But that final verse – finally using personal language for this Lord – Beautiful SAVIOR – Lord of the Nations – and ending doxologically – glory and honor, praise, adoration now and forevermore be Thine – well, again, it’s unbearably moving. And the melody is beautiful. If you want to hear it sung well, find some German Lutherans.
Abide With Me – I suppose this might fall a bit in the same camp as ‘Fairest Lord Jesus’. But I love this hymn for its masterful anchoring in the Gospel of John – as we’re told that if we abide with Christ we will bear lasting fruit for the kingdom, this hymn is a simple prayer asking for God’s continued presence in every circumstance. When the organist kicks it up a notch for that final statement ‘Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee – in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me‘- – oh my. The best organ playing is the kind that you can’t just hear, but you can feel. This is one of those.
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross Lyrics – Isaac Watts, Music – HAMBURG –
Not much to say about this one. It’s pretty much perfect. Other tunes are often used, but I think they’re too sing-songey. I can’t sing about the cross in 3/4. If the song lends itself to a beer stein in the hand, then it’s not a cross-worthy hymn. 😉
Jesus Shall Reign – So, Carol and I have this one in common. As to singability, this tune – Duke Street – has to be one of the finest and most intuitive for the congregation to sing. And it lends itself perfectly to an 8-bar interlude with a power shift key change before the call-to-worship final verse ‘Let EVERY creature rise and bring peculiar anthems…‘
For All the Saints – Words – William Walsham How, tune – Sine Nomine – Ralph Vaughan Williams (sine nomine… no name…. love that guy. RVW is a hoot.)
I will often play this one at the conclusion of funeral services when the casket is being recessed out of the church into the hearse as it makes its journey to the burial ground. I play it simply, elegantly – an understanding of this hymn text was integral in my beginnings of understanding the great cloud of witnesses, the sainthood of all believers, to coin a phrase – and I think it’s the perfect soundtrack for the final journey of the shell. When the casket is covered with the pall representing baptism… well, I’m such a worship geek that I even get goofy at the thoughts of funeral music. Indeed, Carol. We’re cut out of the same cloth. Get it? 🙂
Back to Sine Nomine – but lo! There breaks a yet more glorious day/the saints triumphant rise in bright array/the King of Glory passes on His way – alleluia, alleluia! Yeah. Great, great stuff.
Lift High the Cross – George William Kitchen and Michael Robert Newbolt, tune ‘Crucifer’.
Again, with my Lutheran youth – I was blessed to attend a church with a great organist. Denise was fabulous. She brought the hymns to life for me at a time when I was looking for something to believe in. My love of music and latent faith were a perfect storm of readiness when it came to the hymnal.
I have never seen all of these verses in one place. Holy smokes, what a great hymn:
Lift high the cross,
the love of Christ proclaim
till all the world adore
his sacred Name.
Come, brethren, follow where our Captain trod,
our King victorious, Christ the Son of God. Refrain
Led on their way by this triumphant sign,
the hosts of God in conquering ranks combine. Refrain
Each newborn soldier of the Crucified
bears on the brow the seal of him who died. Refrain
This is the sign which Satan’s legions fear
and angels veil their faces to revere. Refrain
Saved by this Cross whereon their Lord was slain,
the sons of Adam their lost home regain. Refrain
From north and south, from east and west they raise
in growing unison their songs of praise. Refrain
O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree,
as thou hast promised, draw the world to thee. Refrain
Let every race and every language tell
of him who saves our souls from death and hell. Refrain
From farthest regions let their homage bring,
and on his Cross adore their Savior King. Refrain
Set up thy throne, that earth’s despair may cease
beneath the shadow of its healing peace. Refrain
For thy blest Cross which doth for all atone
creation’s praises rise before thy throne. Refrain
We Come, O Christ, to Thee – I prefer to sing this to the tune ‘Darwall’s 148th’ [Rejoice, the Lord is King]. This was the single most important hymn of my college years – also found in the InterVarsity Hymnal. It was one of the first that I memorized intentionally. My devotional life has been marked by a Bible in one hand and a hymnal in the other ever since [except now there’s usually a Book of Common Prayer involved, too]. This is the most remarkable rally cry of a hymn – we worship You, Lord Christ, our Savior and our King/ to Thee our youth and strength adoringly we bring… as the years have gone by, I have realized that it isn’t asking for me to muster up strength – it’s simply asking that I bring that which I have at this moment. Today. That has been of remarkable help to me for many, many years.
We come, O Christ to thee,
true Son of God and man,
by whom all things consist,
in whom all life began:
in thee alone we live and move,
and have our being in thy love.
Thou art the Way to God,
thy blood our ransom paid;
in thee we face our Judge
and Maker unafraid.
Before the throne absolved we stand,
thy love has met thy law’s demand.
Thou art the living Truth!
All wisdom dwells in thee,
thou source of every skill,
Thou great I AM! In thee we rest,
sure answer to our every quest.
Thou only art true Life,
to know thee is to live
the more abundant life
that earth can never give:
O risen Lord! We live in thee:
and thou in us eternally!
We worship thee, Lord Christ,
our Savior and our King,
to thee our youth and strength
adoringly we bring:
so fill our hearts that men may see
thy life in us, and turn to thee!
Words: Margaret Clarkson (1915-);
© 1957 Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Honorable Mention – The Nashotah House Seminary Hymn – Firmly I Believe and Truly – Click here to find out why. Tune written by Canon Joseph Kucharski, Organist at All Saints Episcopal Cathedral in Milwaukee and music prof/organist at Nashotah House since… well, since eternity past. He’s like a piece of furniture there. How we love Joseph and his playing!
Nashotah House Seminary Hymn
1. Firmly I believe and truly
God is three, and God is One;
And I next acknowledge duly
Manhood taken by the Son.
Sanctus fortis, Sanctus Deus,
de profundis oro te,
Miserere, judex meus,
parce mihi Domine.
2. And I trust and hope most fully
In that Manhood crucified;
And each thought and deed unruly
Do to death, as He has died.
3. Simply to His grace and wholly
Light and life and strength belong,
And I love, supremely, solely,
Him the holy, Him the strong.
4. And I hold in veneration,
For the love of Him alone,
Holy Church, as His creation,
And her teachings as His own.
5. Adoration ay be given,
With and through the angelic host,
To the God of earth and heaven,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Paraphrase of the Refrain:
Holy mighty, Holy God,
from the depths I beseech thee,
have mercy, O my judge,
spare me, O Lord.
Text from The Dream of Gerontius
John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
Tune composed by Canon Joseph A. Kucharski, Nashotah House
As I have looked over this list tonight, believe it or not, I would like to change it. If I do, it will never get posted – because tomorrow my top 10 will be different. And Can it Be… May the Mind of Christ my Savior… Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.. Blessed Assurance.. I mean, how can a top 10 leave those out??? Oh, this has been fun. Thanks, Carol, for spurring me on – and for helping me to waste a day sitting in a cluttered kitchen whilst thinking on these things. This was a whole lot more fun than folding laundry!
Note regarding anything contemporary – that will be another post. I, too, am a huge fan of Keith Getty and Stuart Townend [In Christ Alone, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, The Power of the Cross], but because of the conference worship leading circles in which I run, these songs are coming close to running the risk of becoming the ‘Shine Jesus Shine’ of this generation.. a song that is SO GOOD that it is sung TOO MUCH.. it loses all meaning when done so often. I have to figure out how to avoid that.
Back soon with more hymns!!! Thanks so much for stopping by. Consider yourself tagged to post your own – on your own blog, or in the comments here.